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Russia brushed off the threat of western energy sanctions on Friday and pledged to press ahead with plans to build a new gas export pipeline that would strengthen its hold on European gas markets.

Russia is continuing work on the 2,500km South Stream pipeline that will carry gas across the Black Sea to southern and central Europe, Alexander Novak, Russian energy minister told a press conference in Moscow on Friday. Continue reading »

Ievgen Vorobiov, Polish Institute of International Affairs.

The four hour Q&A session of Vladimir Putin televised on April 17 was dominated by his vision for Ukraine. He cheerfully accepted congratulations on the “victory” in Crimea from a political opponent and benevolently corrected “hawkish” appeals of an ardent supporter. But the informal talk with Russian citizens, in my view, sent a direct message to the West: you either accept the way we deal with Ukraine or watch us wreak a much bigger havoc in the country. To make that message more palatable to the West, Putin alluded to Moscow’s involvement in the region as showing a “responsibility to protect”. Continue reading »

** FT News **

* Geneva talks end with Ukraine agreement | Protesters in eastern Ukraine show no sign of backing down despite diplomatic breakthrough

* Russian debt and equity sales stall | There have so far been only two $1bn bond issues from Russian companies this year compared with nine deals raising $13.1bn at the same stage last year Continue reading »

Ask people to name one famous Bulgarian and the answer would probably not be Vasil Levski, freedom fighter and the country’s foremost hero. Nor would it be Tsar Simeon, who ruled over the Bulgarian empire that famously touched three seas.

 

No – the Bulgarian name most likely to glitter in the popular imagination is Hristo Stoichkov, a volatile and brilliant association football forward who fired the national team to a historic fourth place at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the USA, leading the tournament’s top scorers chart along the way. Continue reading »

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Nigeria’s insurance sector is growing rapidly and has low levels of penetration in a young society inhabiting Africa’s largest economy. Add to this what a recent Fitch Rating report calls an environment “ripe for consolidation” and it becomes easy to see why foreign insurance groups are eyeing the market keenly.

The March 2014 Fitch report says “foreign investors in the Nigerian insurance market have shown a preference for acquisition or partnership above setting up new insurance operations”. This preference is down to a need for local knowledge, a good distribution footprint and the ability to achieve scale quickly. Continue reading »

President Dilma Rousseff is not known for her fondness of foreign policy. But last year, the US gave her the inspiration she needed to embark on an international crusade when it was revealed that Washington was spying on her phone calls. Furious at this affront, the Brazilian leader called on the United Nations annual general assembly to push for better governance of the internet.

Next week, her ambition of creating an international civil code governing the use of the web will come a step closer to fruition as the world meets in São Paulo to discuss the issue at NETmundial – the “Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance”. Continue reading »

Thursday was ‘Super Thursday’ in India – the biggest day in the country’s protracted general election – and beyondbrics takes a look at the battle in Maharashtra.

With Easter this weekend, the FT India team will give the blog a break on Friday – but check back next week as elections continue in the world’s largest democracy. Continue reading »

It is what might be dubbed “super Thursday” in India, the biggest voting day in the country’s month-long election. 121 constituencies are up for grabs in a dozen states, including Uttar Pradesh, the largest electoral battleground.

But strategists for the ruling Congress party, facing an ignominious defeat, will be paying just as much attention to voters turning out today in Maharashtra — a stronghold the party hopes may just save it from a polling washout. Continue reading »

** FT News **

* Pro-Russia militants die in Ukraine clash | Three are dead and 13 injured as Ukraine security forces repel an attack on a national guard base in the Azov Sea port of Mariupol

* Bond investors parse the frontier story | Internal conflicts, political instability and poor credit records are all factored in, but the knock-on effect of China’s economic evolution is key Continue reading »

As we heard from the FT this morning, film stars in India often graduate into politics, putting their fame to use at the ballot box.

Stars from Bollywood and many of its regional language peers have been making the move into politics for decades now, supporting parties from either end of the political spectrum. But this year, parts of the film industry have been pushing the electorate to vote for a ‘secular’ party – a thinly veiled nudge away from would-be prime minister, Narendra Modi. Continue reading »

** FT News **

* EU sanctions push on Russia falters | Companies warn that Kremlin retaliation could cost them dear as diplomats fear that negotiations in Geneva on Thursday will prove fruitless

* Citic eyes the mantle of largest in China | The Hong Kong stock market will soon have a conglomerate to rival Li Ka-shing’s sprawling Hutchison empire after the $37bn asset injection into Citic Pacific by its mainland Chinese parent. Continue reading »

By Gavin Bowring, Asean Confidential

China’s two-way trade with the 10 nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has grown more than fivefold over the past decade and is on course to reach nearly $500bn this year. However, Chinese direct investment into Asean has been relatively anemic by comparison, accounting for only 7 per cent of China’s total foreign direct investment (FDI) stock.

But if Beijing gets its way, this is set to change. China plans a fivefold ramp up of its FDI in the region to a cumulative $150bn by 2020 from $30bn currently. Over the same period, it sees a doubling in bilateral trade to $1trn by 2020. The map below sets out the current trade flows and dynamics. Continue reading »

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, under siege over late preparations for the soccer World Cup that starts in June, at last has something to celebrate.

The first of a series of major infrastructure programmes promised to the Brazilian public as part of the tournament has finally been inaugurated – or at least “the first phase of the first phase” of the project. On Wednesday, Ms Rousseff presided over the opening of a new terminal at the international airport in the capital, Brasília. Continue reading »

It wasn’t so long ago that being a long-term investor in emerging market stocks came with very little short-term gratification. Dividends were small or non-existent.

This is changing fast. The average yield for listed companies in emerging markets is now 2.5 per cent, according to a study by data company Markit. That level is currently slightly higher than average dividend yield of S&P500 companies, which stood at 1.98 per cent on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg. Continue reading »

With the Indian Premier League cricket tournament kicking off on Wednesday, people were a little distracted from the mammoth general election.

But beyondbrics took a look at the criminal and financial history of candidates in Mumbai and questioned whether anyone – even Narendra Modi – can kick start the economy quickly. Continue reading »